Alabama trade name/DBA registration allows a business to operate under a name that differs from its official legal name (the name that was used when the company was formed).
Here’s our five minute guide to working out if you need a trade name or DBA and, if so, completing it quickly and easily so you can get your business up and running.
For example, let’s say you have an LLC called Dan’s Burgers LLC that you use for your burger store, Dan’s Burgers, but you want to rebrand your offering to hotdogs? Well, you can use a DBA to trade as Dan’s Hotdogs without having to set up a new LCC.
Note that an Alabama DBA (Doing Business As) is known as a trade name.
Filing for a DBA gives small business owners and startups freedom to choose their business name without having the costs and complexity of registering multiple LLCs or corporations.
There are many circumstances in which you might want to use a trade name or DBA is used for branding your business.
But, please note, a trade name/DBA (also know as a fictitious business name in some states) doesn’t provide legal protection for your personal assets in the way a Limited Liability Company (LLC) does.
Who Needs a Trade Name in Alabama?
Before you follow the steps below to get a trade name or DBA in Alabama, it’s important to be clear on whether or not it is required for the type of business entity you are going to be applying as.
Sole proprietors – a sole proprietor and their business after effectively the same in terms of name, so sole traders do need a trade name or DBA if they want to trade under a different business name. For example if a sole trader called John Smith wants to trade as John’s Mowing, they need a trade name.
LLCs and Corporations – the same principle applies to these business entities. If corporations or limited liability companies want to trade under a different business name to the official registered name, they need to get a trade name (DBA). For example, if you had an LLC called John Smith Holdings and want to trade as John’s Mowing, you would need a trade name or DBA.
How to Get a DBA in Alabama
Here is our step-by-step guide to getting a DBA or trade name in Alabama.
The process is very easy and is explained in these three steps.
- Do a trade name search in Alabama
- Check if you preferred business name, or a variant of it, is available as a web domain
- Use your Alabama trade name
- Register your Alabama Trade Name
Step 1: Do a Trade Name Search in Alabama
Your trade name or Alabama DBA must be unique (ie not taken by someone else) and it must meet the state’s requirements for business names.
Once you have a name in mind, you can use the Alabama Secretary of State’s Business Entity Search to see if it is available.
Once you’ve ensured it is not already in use, then need to check that it meets the state’s naming requirements. These specify that the name can’t include:
- Bank-related words, unless you obtain a letter and permission granted from the Alabama Banking Commissioner’s Office.
- Insurance-related words, unless the Alabama Insurance Commissioner’s Office grants you permission.
- Words that might confuse your business with a government agency (such as the FBI, the IRS or the State Department).
- A professional designation such as a lawyer, engineer or doctor without a copy of a vocational license corresponding to one officer or member of the LLC.
- Words that may imply that your company engages in business that isn’t authorized by law.
Step 2: Check if your name is available as a web domain
This is a practical step rather than a legal requirement. If you are doing business today it is pretty much certain you will need a website, so it makes sense to check if your name, or a variant of it, is available as a domain for you to put a website on. You can check if your preferred domain is available here: godaddy.com/domains
Chances are the exact match of your domain may not be available, so you might have to get a bit creative.
- Try to get the .com version of the domain if you can as .org or .net aren’t as suitable for businesses
- Don’t just insert a hyphen between words. It doesn’t look professional
- Sometimes a quirky word (“guru”, “school” or “base”) makes for a good brand/domain. That’s what we did with llcdojo.com by using “dojo” – Japanese for a training centre – as that quirky but still appropriate word.
Step 3: Use your Alabama trade name (DBA)
The state requires you to actual “use” your trade name before it can be registered. You need to produce three “specimens” of the trade name being used that are unaltered and legible. Thankfully this is pretty easy and cheap to comply with as the state accepts the following as example:
- Flyers or brochures
- Business cards
- Labels or decals
It is easy enough to get some of these made up and they are obviously useful in many cases for promoting your business.
Step 4: Register your Alabama trade name (DBA)
Now it is time to complete the DBA/trade name registration process. First stop is the Alabama Secretary of State’s site where you can register online or download the forms to complete it by mail.
Completing the registration is a relatively simple process (the form is only a few pages long) and incurs a fee of $30. Note that the page and form for registering your trade name also refer to it as a trademark or service mark.
- The date you used the business name for the first time in any state.
- The date you first used the business name in Alabama.
- A statement claiming ownership of the DBA trade name.
- A brief description of your business.
- How you will use the trade name.
- A copy of the federal registration if a federal trademark registration already exists.
If you are filing with the paper form, you can send it to the Alabama Secretary of State at these addresses:
State of Alabama Office of the Secretary of State,
11 South Union St., Suite 224
Montgomery, AL 36130
State of Alabama Office of the Secretary of State
P.O. Box 5616
Montgomery, AL 36103-5616
For assistance you can always call the Alabama Secretary of State’s Trademarks Division on (334) 242-5325.
You can also use Swyft Filings to complete your Alabama Trade Name application for you: https://shrsl.com/3p3gb
Let Swyft Filings Do the Work: $99 DBA application
- Complete the application in 10 mins
- Swyft Filings lodges paperwork and receives DBA
- Live help in completing the application
After Successfully Filing For Your DBA in Alabama
Once you have your trade name or DBA, your business is almost up and running. Here are a few things to consider as next steps to get fully operational.
- Create a website for your business: Pretty much all businesses need a website these days and it is often an advantage (although not essential) to have social media pages too
- Set up a bank account for your business: Keeping your own finances separate from your LLC’s finances is important and they only way to do that is by operating a separate bank account for the LLC. We recommend Mercury Bank as a great online banking option, although you can bank with the traditional bricks and mortar banks too.